6 days ago
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Rails to Trails Conservancy is hard at work on its magnum opus.
We first wrote about the D.C. nonprofit last year, highlighting its mission to convert America’s abandoned railway corridors into functioning linear parks for bikers and hikers. But RTC’s been on this grind since way back in 1983, and with hard-earned grants, local investments and more meetings than we care to imagine, has now secured 34,000 miles of trail throughout the United States.
All those miles are carefully mapped on RTC’s online database, a tool that’s now helping the dream of c0-founder David Burwell become a reality. He envisioned a trip “across this country on flat, wide, off-road paths … rail-trails [that’ll become] ‘America’s Main Street’.” Well, the day has come. RTC has its sights set on a coast-to-coast byway and recently announced plans to roll out The Great American Rail-Trail.
Rails to Trails spent 18 months meeting with state agencies and trail partners before deciding that the Great American Rail-Trail was concievable. Thanks to a network of 12 existing “gateway” trails (the mid-point of such trails are dotted on the map above), the 4,000-mile passage is actually already 50% done. It begins in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., ends in Cascades State Park, Washington and samples a whole lot in between. Think Lake Erie, Illinois canals, High Plains in Nebraska, and the Missouri River.
This spring, RTC will announce the route in more detail and plans to include more information on the trail’s planned tributaries and connectors. The official completion of the Great American will take years, though. And it’ll be worth it. This is a massive national project we should all be proud of. Imagine the mind-numbing slog it must’ve been to get to this point for RTC — almost 40 years of patient work in the name of conservation and exercise, two tenets of healthy, sustainable living that humans have a terrible tendency to rail against. Of course, the adventure athletes will have a field day knocking the full distance off their bucket list. But it’ll be a national treasure for anyone looking to pump pedals away from the road and catch a beautiful view or 4,000 along the way.
For more information on the project, head here.